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January 22, 2013 10:00 PM

Helpful Pains For Law Enforcement

Aberdeen, SD

Shoveling snow or spinning through mud can be a pain. But weather conditions some grumble about can be helpful to law enforcement.

Snow helped Aberdeen detectives catch 30-year-old Travis Atchley Monday.

Police say he robbed a gas station in northeast Aberdeen earlier this month and did it again Monday morning. Police say he left both stores with cash.

"We're lucky that over the weekend we had a fresh dusting of snow," Detective Tanner Jondahl said.

Police identified the car Atchley was driving when they say he robbed a convenience store in the southwest part of town Monday. They later found it abandoned behind an apartment building in the northern part of town.

As they investigated, detectives noticed tracks leaving the scene where they found the car. Thanks to just enough snow falling over the weekend, that trail continued several blocks, leading law enforcement to their suspect.

"The footprints certainly shortened the amount of time for the investigation," Jondahl said.

And this isn't a one-time occurrence. Weather, which can be a pain for many, can often be helpful to law enforcement.

"Oh definitely, whether it's snow, mud, weather conditions have helped us a lot in following tracks," Detective Chris Gross said. "We do what we call 'casting' where we're able to lift those prints whether it is form a tire or a shoe. It doesn't happen all the time but it definitely helped in this case that the night before we got a little dusting."

Even though law enforcement can give a lot of credit to something as simple as the weather, in some cases officers say it doesn’t take away from the need for modern technology. With the recent Aberdeen robberies, surveillance cameras at both stores helped law enforcement a lot.

In fact, thanks to technology Jondahl says police would have had enough information to eventually find the suspect without the trail of tracks in the snow.

That said, the tracks speed up the process. Since they thought the suspect was a repeat offender, police wanted to catch him before he robbed anyone else.

"Technology's great but things as simple as Mother Nature, people in our community who help out and just old-school methods of tracking criminals," Gross said.

Those are all things, according to law enforcement, that can help a lot, even if some of them can be unpopular at times.

"Definitely, I hate snow and after yesterday's incident I'm like, 'man, I'm glad we got that snow,'" Gross said.

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